Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Burns, James

Committee Member

Meng, Michael

Committee Member

Anderson, Paul


On March 5th, 2012, the Kony 2012 video was released by the authors and director of Invisible Children, and Uganda instantaneously became the center of young America's focus. This graphic video contained disturbing images of child soldiers and dead children, aiming to draw sympathy and awareness to the ongoing problem the Lord's Resistance Army's violent attacks on the Acholi of Northern Uganda and recruitment measures. While many Americans responded to the video's urgent request for support by encouraging the government to act, others adhered to the popular belief that this conflict was nothing more than another tribal conflict among a backwards group of people. In my African history class that same week, students voiced their concern over the violent images they saw, but unconsciously, they also displayed an ignorance of the origins of such conflicts in Africa. To someone with very little knowledge of Africa's history, this situation would seemingly offer an obvious solution such as the one the Kony 2012 video presented to its viewers: kill Joseph Kony and the situation will resolve itself. To Africanist, particularly those who study Uganda's history, this conflict reflects issues that extend beyond the current conflict.
In order to understand the origins of this conflict, people need a better understanding of the largest ethnic group affected by it, the Acholi of northern Uganda. This thesis provides a history of the Acholi that clarifies their role in Ugandan politics. The larger purpose of this thesis is to illustrate the factors that contributed to the creation and evolution of the Acholi ethnic identity and how their ethnic identity influenced their relationships with those outside of their ethnic group. The Acholi identity continuously evolved because of their interaction with other groups, as well as their inclusion into a larger socio-political institution. Through processes of negotiation, the Acholi the pre-colonial period adjusted to the changes the colonial and post-colonial periods instigated. While this thesis does not cover the present day conflict, the role the Acholi have in it becomes more evident through this study.

Included in

History Commons



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